Public Works - It is pleasant to turn from the subject of politics, with which we have had very little to, of late, and take a survey of the public improvements which are now in course of prosecution, along the great line of our internal water communication, from Montreal to the termination of the Welland canal, at Port Colborne. This subject is the more pleasing to us because it is the best practical comment that possibly can be given upon the happy and beneficial change which has placed the administration of the Government upon a firm and constitutional basis; and which by removing dissatisfaction here, and restoring confidence at home, has given an impetus to public enterprise that will place Canada upon an eminence of proud and enviable distinction, beside our rival neighbors.
It only requires a glance at the map of the Western States of Republican America, to show at once, that the natural highway to the ocean and a foreign market, for their immense productions, is through the channel of the St. Lawrence; and had Canada been one of the constituent States of the Union, the Erie canal would never have had a commencement - as the trade of Northern and Western New York would have flowed as naturally to the St. Lawrence, as does now the Eastern and Southern portion of the State, to the Hudson. Under such circumstances, the energies of the country would have been directed to the improvement of this immense chain of communication, and the far-seeing policy of a Clinton, to divert the trade of the West through an artificial channel to the Atlantic, would never have immortalized his name.
To a son of Canada, belongs the honor of originating the Welland canal - the first and most important link in th chain, and which was at first designed for boat navigation only, similar to what the Erie now is; but by the energy and perseverance of its projector, it was subsequently enlarged to its present dimensions. The old line of this canal - as it is termed in contradistinction of the improved line now in progress - is twenty-eight miles in length, overcoming 340 feet of elevation, by means of 37 locks, built originally of wood, but in such an unsubstantial manner that it has required the annual expenditure of large sums to keep them in repair.
This together with the frequent interruptions to navigation which they have occasioned, will be entirely obviated upon the completion of the improvements which have been commenced, and are now proceeding, although, in the depth of winter, with the greatest actively, by the enterprising contractors to whom the work has been allotted. The number of new locks to attain the summit level between the two lakes, will be reduced to twenty-six; but as this level is about six feet above that of lake Erie, an entrance lock will be constructed at Port Colborne, of sufficient dimensions to admit steam boats of the largest class. A similar lock is now in progress near Port Maitland - mouth of Grand river - which is a new entrance into the Welland canal, by means of a branch cut into the feeder from the Grand river, which is now being deepened and widened to the size of the canal, and will be completed by the 15th April next. Another lock of the same description, will be built at Port Dalhousie. Each of these three entrances will have commodious and safe harbors - the one at Port Maitland, on lake Erie, will be open, upon an average about three weeks earlier in the season than that at Port Colborne. All the locks connected with the gigantic work, are to be of solid masonry, and executed in a style not surpassed by any in America; and what will add naturally toward facilitating the construction of the locks, is , that extensive quarries of stone, of an excellent description, are found in the immediate neighborhood of the canal. - The entire line of improvements, will be completed in the autumn of 1844.
The Cornwall canal around the Long Sault rapid, the next link in the chain, is 11 1/2 miles in length, with 48 feet fall, and six locks, was completed and opened for navigation, the past season. The next is the Beauharnois canal, on the south side of the St. Lawrence, 16 miles in length, connecting lake St. Francis and the lake St. Louis, is now under contract, and will be finished the same year with the Welland canal; as will also the widening and deepening of the Lachine canal, connecting lake St. Louis with the ship navigation of the St. Lawrence, at Montreal; thus completing one of the most stupendous, and, taken in all its bearings, most important lines of internal water communication to be found in America; and which will be opened in the spring of 1845, for vessels of three hundred tons burden, through its entire length, from Montreal to Chicago, and the furthest ports of lake Superior.
It is impossible to calculate, with any degree of certainty, the change that will take place in the circumstances of the country, when this great channel of trade shall be thrown open to the enterprise of the commercial world. It must and will have an important and beneficial bearing upon its prosperity, and will not only tend to the rapid and extensive development of the resources of this vast province - and which will increase from year to year, in a ratio beyond the power of the most acute to determine - but will enable the Government, by the vast amount of revenue it will produce, to pay both interest and principal of the public debt, without resorting to direct taxation. In the general prosperity, no one class of the community will be more benefitted than the farmers. Hitherto the expense of transshipment, forwarding, commission, storage, and a multitude of minor charges, have operated to keep down the price of their produce to the lowest possible ratio; but when once these great improvements are fully completed, the heavy drawback upon their industry;, from these causes, will be removed, and the agricultural interest left to reap the benefit accruing from cheapened transit, and increased demands for the produce of the soil.
We shall not conceal the truth, however that much of the future prosperity of these expensive works, depends upon the policy which both the British and American Governments may pursue, in regard to trade between the two countries. - The less it is hampered with high tariffs, by both parties, the greater will be its amount, and if left entirely unrestricted, it would soon find its proper channels, and regulate itself. This is undoubtedly the only just principle upon which the commerce of nations should be carried on; but as changes which effect the interests of the whole commercial world, can be but slowly produced, a considerable length of time must necessarily elapse before trade can resume its proper and legitimate place in the common affairs of men. But come it will, although, perhaps, not to the extent that is advocates would carry it. The question of "free trade" is now - to use a Parliamentary phrase - an open one; its principles are being discussed not by noisy demagogues, or partisan politicians, but by the cool and deliberate statesman, and the grave senator, in the national halls of legislation. Discussion tends to the discovery and promulgation of truth, which, whence once known, will sooner or later produce its legitimate influence. England has certainly made some advance in favor of free trade; and when we consider the inveterate prejudices to be overcome, and the power of monopolies which have grown up under her protective system, we are rather surprised than otherwise, so much has been affected, in as short a time.
The "Colonial Trade Act" is a closer approximation to the principle we contend for, than we had any reason to expect, when it is considered, that it was passed at the time that nearly all Europe were conspiring against the trade and manufactures of England. By this act, the greater proportion of American manufactures will be admitted into the colonies, at a nominal duty of which used to range at from 15 to 30 per cent, whilst several were entirely prohibited. The Chinese policy of the United States too, judging from the result of the State elections, is soon destined to pull before the power of an overwhelming democracy, when their high monopoly making tarriff of duties, will be cut down so as to meet the simple expenses of the Government. All such changes will have a direct and beneficial bearing upon the prosperity of our great highway to the ocean. Through this channel, the producing States of the West will find a market for their productions, and a supply of British manufactures suited to their growing wants.
We have been led into these remarks from pursuing an article in the Quebec Gazette under the head of "Ship and Steam Boat Navigation between the great lakes and tide waters," which our readers will find copied into this week's Journal.